Matuidi backs Griezmann for Ballon d'Or ahead of Ronaldo showdown


Antoine Griezmann would be France team-mate Blaise Matuidi's pick for this year's Ballon d'Or but he played down the significance of a showdown between Euro 2016's top scorer and Cristiano Ronaldo in Sunday's final against Portugal.

Griezmann scored 32 goals in all competitions for Atletico Madrid last season and has carried this stunning form into Euro 2016 - his brace in Thursday's semi-final triumph over Germany taking his tournament tally to six.

National team coaches, captains and select journalists vote annually to award the Ballon d'Or to world football's outstanding player.

This means Matuidi will be no more than a keen onlooker but, ahead of the players facing off at the Stade de France, the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder revealed he would plump for his compatriot and not the three-time winner from Real Madrid.

"I think [Griezmann] is a credible candidate for the Ballon d'Or with what he's done this season and in this competition," he told a news conference at France's Clairefontaine training base.

"If I had to vote, I would vote for him. It's exceptional what he's done. I hope it continues

"To see a player of this talent - not all the nations have players of this talent - I am very happy to have such a player with us."

Matuidi was keen to add that this was not an attempt to play down Ronaldo's supreme abilities and he feels Sunday's final will come down to much more than what the two star attackers produce in Saint-Denis.

"Ronaldo too, he deserves it, he had a strong season and is going great in this competition. After, we will see," he said. 

"I think Antoine, if you asked him today, the first thing he has in his head is the French team and to be the champion of Europe

"It's not a match between him and Ronaldo, it's a match between France and Portugal."

One Portugal player who has caught Matuidi's eye is 18-year-old sensation Renato Sanches - a fellow midfielder who he received a tip-off about from PSG team-mate David Luiz.

Sanches is set to join up with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich after concluding a switch from Benfica and Matuidi said: "Sanches is a player that I discovered playing at Benfica. I spoke with one of my team-mates, David Luiz, who knows him.

"He said, 'Hey, look at this player, he's exceptional - he's only 18'. I watched him at a match and he surprised me.

"His technical qualities are excellent and I am not surprised to see him like this in the Euro because of his performances in the Champions League.

"He is a player with a big, big future. I hope he will do a little bit less in this game."